As always, I try to focus my column on legal issues that are current and timely. If you've been paying attention, the Standard has been running front-page stories for the past couple of weeks about upcoming legislation for the next session of the Utah State Legislature. Monday, the Utah State Legislature is back in session. Cue creepy kid from the "Poltergeist" movie -- "They're baaaack."
In case you don't remember from my column last year, you can track legislation that is pending by going to le.utah.gov. With the website's search features, you can track the legislation that is important to you from abortion to youth corrections. (No one proposed any changes to zoning laws yet this year, so it is A to Y instead of A to Z.)
For those of you who like your government filtered a little bit more, but want more than just your daily Standard, try utahpoliticalcapitol.com, which provides a comprehensive overview of Utah's political world.
So as I sat down to write this column, I started going through the list of pending legislation and got as far as the letter B, and under Business, I saw two bills pending: HB46 Deferred Deposit Lending and Forum Requirements and HB47 Deferred Deposit Loan Amendments, proposed by Rep. Larry Wiley from West Valley City.
I'm pretty certain that most people would have stopped at something more interesting, like the pending legislation criminalizing revenge porn (HB65) or the law allowing you to be pulled over if you aren't wearing your seat belt and you are going faster than 55 mph (SB128), or the five different bills on air quality.
Yet, I stopped on Deferred Deposit Loans or, as the loans are more widely known, pay day loans.
Our retail spaces and main thoroughfares are littered with the garish colors and lights of payday lenders charging in excess of 300 percent interest on their loans. Almost daily in my own legal practice, I have clients coming in who are buried in multiple payday loans, so, of course, I was interested in the new legislation.
Wiley's idea is pretty simple -- create a database of all of the payday loans in the state and limit the number of loans people can get so they don't get buried. Also, he proposes a law change that wouldn't allow the lenders to sue you in Utah County if you live in Weber County (which a couple of the companies do).
I think this is a great idea, so instead of writing my column, I emailed Wiley and my own representative, Dixon Pitcher, and told them how much I liked it. So here is my modified letter to Wiley.
Dear Rep. Wiley,
Your legislation is long overdue. Thank you for proposing it. I would be interested in doing anything I can to help it pass. I have been practicing consumer bankruptcy law for over 20 years and your legislation would be of enormous help to the poor in this state.
(I then proceeded to give the representative my more technical legal take on the proposed bills and some possible tweaks to make it even better.)
After a couple of decades of seeing clients walk in with 15 deferred-deposit loans, it is time that our laws addressed this problem. The lenders are playing a very perverse game of musical chairs/loans, sitting on the finances of the poor.
I guess since the entire Attorney General's office (Shurtleff and Swallow) was beholden to the payday lenders for the past few years, it is nice to see legislation like this.
Good luck and I'll be tracking the legislation. I'll also let the Consumer Bankruptcy Attorney Bar know about your bill so they can contact their own representatives to tell them to support what you are doing.
E. Kent Winward
So don't despair that the Legislature is back in session, but instead, find out what is happening that you care about and get involved. Let your representative and senator know how you feel.
At the very least, it will lend some moral credence if you want to complain about the state's laws.
E. Kent Winward is an Ogden attorney. He can be reached at 801-392-8200 or email@example.com.